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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 214, Part I, 5 November 1998
________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 214, Part I, 5 November 1998 A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II covers Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * RUSSIA HEADED FOR DEFAULT * YELTSIN INELIGIBLE FOR THIRD TERM * FIGHTING CONTINUES IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA RUSSIA HEADED FOR DEFAULT... First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Maslyukov told reporters on 4 November that debt payments of $3.5 billion due this year and of $17.5 billion due in 1999 are "too much" for Russia's weakened economy. The government can either draft an emergency budget that would "bleed all spheres of the economy white" or agree with lenders on restructuring the debt. Maslyukov promised that the government's 1999 budget will be an austere one with only a 3 percent deficit. Last month, State Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov warned that "debt restructuring talks must be held" because there is little chance that next year's budget could cover the $17.5 billion debt. JAC ...AS IT SUBMITS BUDGET TO DUMA. Also on 4 November, the government sent its draft "Law on Initial Measures in the Budget and Tax Policy Sphere" to the Duma. According to Zhukov, the bill requires the printing of 35 billion- 40 billion rubles ($2.3 billion), Interfax reported. Maslyukov said that monetary emission should not exceed 15 billion rubles in 1998 and 30-35 billion rubles in 1999. Zhukov said that although the budget deficit in 1999 will stay within the targeted 3 percent, "it will total 100 billion rubles at the very least." He concluded that the bill is likely to pass even though it calls for "inflationary financing" because "there are no other sources of financing." Meanwhile, a "senior U.S. official" told Reuters that Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will deliver a negative assessment of the Primakov government's economic program in a public speech on 5 November. The economic program "doesn't make sense, the numbers don't add up," the official said. JAC GOVERNMENT NAMES PRICE FOR GAZPROM. The government has established a starting price of $651 million for a 2.5 percent stake in Gazprom. Interfax reported on 4 November that bidding is expected to begin at the end of the week and close before 25 December. The buyer will have to hold on to the shares for five years. In August, the government had set the price of a 5 percent stake at 10.3 billion rubles, which at the time was the equivalent of $1.65 billion. JAC YELTSIN INELIGIBLE FOR THIRD TERM. The Constitutional Court announced on 5 November that President Boris Yeltsin is ineligible to run again for president. The Court ruled that since Yeltsin has been elected twice, a third try would violate the constitution. In recent months Yeltsin has repeatedly stated that he will not seek reelection. The court ruling means he will now be unable to change his mind. JAC KREMLIN TARGETED BY 'EXTREMIST.' A car carrying a homemade bomb exploded in Red Square on 4 November, injuring three people. Interfax reported that the driver of the car was Ivan Orlov, a journalist for an anti- Semitic magazine published by the Russian National Liberation Movement. The car, a Moskvich, stopped meters away from a heavy wooden gate barring the entrance to the Kremlin. ITAR-TASS reported that after examining Orlov, a psychiatrist had issued a preliminary diagnosis of schizophrenia. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that Orlov had been expelled from his party for "extremism." JAC DUMA NIXES PSA PROJECTS. The Duma rejected two bills that would have extended product sharing agreements to 10 oil projects and might have injected some much needed foreign direct investment into the oil sector. The vote effectively puts projects in areas such as Komi, Udmurtia, Tomsk, and Yamal Nenetsk on hold. Some of those projects have already been at a standstill for several years. JAC CORRUPTION CHARGES CONTINUE. Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin revealed that some of the cases of alleged corruption mentioned in a letter sent by Yabloko deputies to Prime Minister Primakov are already under investigation, Duma Deputy and Yabloko faction member Sergei Ivanenko told Interfax on 4 November. Ivanenko added that First Deputy Prime Minister Maslyukov is not being investigated "directly or indirectly." The previous day, Stepashin told reporters that Yabloko's charges were a publicity effort by its leader, Grigorii Yavlinskii. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that the "charges" against Maslyukov, First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov, and Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Kulik focus on activities from 1990 to 1998. The daily also quoted Yavlinskii as saying he did not bring his charges to the attention of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin because "it would have been futile." JAC MORE PARTIES SHUN COALITIONS. Two more political parties have declared their intention to abstain from forming an election bloc or joining a larger alliance. Earlier, Yabloko and the Communist Party said that they will not form any alliances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November 1998). Mikhail Lapshin, Agrarian Party leader, said on 3 November that his party will run alone in the 1999 State Duma elections. The next day, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Zhirinovsky told reporters that his group will not join any coalitions. Meanwhile, former Minister of the Interior Anatolii Kulikov has expressed the desire to run for a seat in the Duma, "Kommersant- Daily" reported. JAC HELP ON THE WAY TO KAMCHATKA? Moscow has dispatched a tanker of fuel to relieve the energy shortage in Kamchatka, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 November. The tanker is expected to arrive in two or three days, while fuel supplies in the oblast's capital, Petropavlosk- Kamchatskii, are forecast to last only another 10 days. According to the "Moscow Times," other districts in the Far East are suffering from their own regional fuel shortages. Sakhalin Island is experiencing four-hour blackouts every day, while heating has not yet been turned on in Vladivostok, despite the cold weather. JAC RUSSIA, BELARUS COOPERATE TO COUNTER NATO. The Russian armed forces command has rethought its strategy for troops based in western Russia and is creating a joint defense system with Belarus and forming 10 permanent alert divisions, Colonel-General Yurii Baluevskii, head of the General Staff's Tactical Department, told reporters on 4 November. According to Russian agencies, Baluevskii attributed the changes to NATO's expansion plans and said Russian and Belarusian "joint actions are expected to cool down hot heads in the West". However, Reuters quoted a Defense Ministry spokesman who said that Baluevskii's remarks had been misinterpreted. The colonel-general had been addressing only the issue of closer defense cooperation with Belarus, the spokesman explained. Baluevskii also said that lack of funding might slow the armed forces' plan to reduce ranks to 1.2 million by 1 January 1999. JAC ZHIRINOVSKY BACKS IRAQ. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Zhirinovsky told journalists on 4 November that he believes Baghdad is justified in refusing any further cooperation with UN weapons inspectors, whom he accused of espionage. Zhirinovsky affirmed that "Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction" and that it has complied with UN conditions. The previous day, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had termed Baghdad's decision "counterproductive" and likely to compound the suffering of the Iraqi people. He called on the Iraqi leadership to "fully resume cooperation with the UN and its disarmament commission," according to Interfax. Ivanov added that Moscow is "coordinating positions" with the UN and a number of unnamed countries to prevent an escalation of tensions in the Gulf region. LF NIKITIN PROSECUTOR APPEALS TO SUPREME COURT. A local prosecutor appealed to the Russian Supreme Court on 3 November to overturn a lower court ruling that sent the case of Aleksandr Nikitin back for further investigation. Nikitin was charged with espionage for disclosing information about nuclear waste disposal by the Russian navy. ITAR-TASS reported that the appeal charged the lower court had reached "premature conclusions" about the evidence gathered against Nikitin. Nikitin's lawyers have filed their own appeal, requesting that the charges against Nikitin be dismissed entirely and that he be allowed to travel outside the country. JAC CHECHEN ISLAMIC COURT SENTENCES RADUEV. Chechnya's Supreme Sharia court on 4 November sentenced maverick field commander Salman Raduev in absentia to four years in prison for attempting to overthrow President Aslan Maskhadov, Russian agencies reported. Raduev's supporters had clashed on 21 June with government security forces seeking to prevent them from occupying the main television station in Grozny (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 June 1998). National Security Service chief Lecha Khultygov and the commander of Raduev's General Dudaev army were shot dead in that standoff. Raduev told Interfax on 4 November that he will resist any attempt to apprehend him and will lodge an appeal with an alternative Shariah court set up the previous day by field commanders opposed to Maskhadov. Raduev added that the field commanders' council, to which both he and former acting Premier Shamil Basaev belong, will ignore all future orders by Maskhadov. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA FIGHTING CONTINUES IN NORTHERN TAJIKISTAN... Fighting between government troops and forces loyal to former army Colonel Mahmud Khudaberdiyev continues in and around the northern city of Khujand on 5 November, RFE/RL correspondents and Russian media reported. The government has dispatched another 300 soldiers to the area to bolster forces already battling Khudaberdiyev's troops. Government troops in Khujand have reportedly reclaimed buildings belonging to the National Security Ministry and the local police. Heavy fighting is reported around the Khujand headquarters of the Interior Ministry's special forces' unit. A government official told RFE/RL more than 100 have died in the fighting and that casualties are almost evenly divided between government and rebel forces. Fighting is also reported at the Anzob Pass, 100 kilometers north of Dushanbe, the highest point on the road between the Tajik capital and Khujand. BP ...AFTER NEGOTIATIONS BREAK DOWN. An attempt at negotiating with Khudaberdiyev's group, which calls itself the Movement for General Peace in Tajikistan broke down shortly after commencing on 4 November. Khudaberdiyev had demanded that government forces withdraw to an area 10 kilometers from Khujand and lift the blockade of the airport at Chkalovsk. He also demanded that 40 percent of the cabinet posts be granted to his group and that former Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullajonov, who is wanted by Tajik law enforcement agencies, be allowed to speak on national television and radio. Presidential spokesman Zafar Saidov said on 5 November there will be no more negotiating with Khudaberdiyev's group and demanded that the rebels surrender immediately. BP GEORGIA, RUSSIA SIGN FRONTIER AGREEMENTS. Georgian and Russian representatives signed in Moscow on 3 November two agreements redefining Russia's diminishing role in helping to guard Georgia's borders, ITAR-TASS reported. The agreements follow the passage of a law by the Georgian parliament in July affirming that over the next two years, Georgia will assume sole responsibility for doing so (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July 1998). One of the two agreements defines the ongoing areas of cooperation, which no longer include protecting Georgia's maritime borders. The second deals with the gradual transfer to Georgian jurisdiction of the areas still being jointly guarded and of property currently owned by the Russian federal Border Guard Service. LF ARMENIA DENIES OFFERING TO MEDIATE BETWEEN ISRAEL, IRAN. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian on 4 November denied that during his visit to Israel last week, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian had offered to mediate between Israel and Iran, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November 1998). But Gasparian added that Armenia does not exclude the possibility of such mediation if the government of either country requests it. LF ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT ADJOURNS ELECTION LAW DEBATE. The ongoing debate on two draft election laws has been adjourned until 16 November after more than a dozen political parties again affirmed their support for the draft prepared by representatives of 11 parliamentary factions and groups, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 November. That draft, which provides for 30 seats in the future 131-member parliament to be allocated in single-member constituencies and the remaining 101 on the basis of proportional representation, is regarded as minimizing the possibility of gerrymandering. The majority Yerkrapah group wants 80 seats allocated in single-member constituencies. Prominent oppositionist David Shahnazarian warned that opposition parties will consider boycotting next summer's parliamentary elections if the Yerkrapah draft law is passed. Yerkrapah deputy Andranik Manukian dismissed the boycott threat as irrelevant for the outcome of the poll. LF NEW ARMENIAN RADICAL PARTY CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT. Leaders of the National Security Party, which recently split from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), have outlined the party's program, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 4 November. They pledged to strive for a tough Armenian stand in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and to promote the establishment of "strong Armenian statehood." The party's chairman, Garnik Isagulian, criticized the Armenian leadership's Karabakh policy as "unclear." Igor Muradian, one of the founders in 1988 of the movement for unification with Karabakh, told journalists that President Robert Kocharian is leading Armenia to "international isolation" and strained relations with "allies." Muradian predicted that Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev may soon be tempted to resume the war in Nagorno-Karabakh owing to what Muradian sees as Azerbaijan's weakening geopolitical position. LF UKRAINE CONTINUES LOBBYING FOR ROLE IN CASPIAN OIL EXPORT. Two prominent Ukrainian officials have again argued the merits of transporting some Caspian oil to international markets via Ukrainian territory rather than through the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Following a meeting of the Ukrainian-Polish Consultative Council, Security and Defense Council Secretary Vladimir Gorbulin pointed out on 3 November that transportation costs per metric ton of crude via Ukraine would be $10 cheaper than via Turkey. In Baku, Ukrainian ambassador Boris Alekseenko said that the Odessa-Brody pipeline, which links up with the Druzhba pipeline, would be able to transport 40 million tons per year on completion late in 1999. He said that Ukraine could refine half of this quantity domestically. Alekseenko also endorsed proposals for routing the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline via the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa and the Turkish Black Sea port of Samsun, according to ANS-Press. 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